The research behind the writing

Have you ever read a story that is so immersive in the time, place, and setting, that you could swear the author must have lived through what they were writing about?

First off, that’s the sign of a good writer. And secondly, that means the writer did such a fantastic job of researching their subject and setting that nothing ever jarred you out of the story because it felt out of place. In fact, it felt natural.

Honestly, as an unpublished writer, research is something I both love and hate.

I love it because, hey, I love to read! I love to learn new things! I will happily spend an hour diving down a rabbit hole about Henry VIII’s wives, and emerge on the other side knowing far more than I ever needed to about cleaning practices in the 16th century.

But I also hate it because it takes time away from the actual writing of a story, making that dream of publication seem even further out of my grasp.

However, if I want that dream to become reality, I have to make sure my story won’t be picked apart by a well-meaning editor just doing their job.

A lot of people think that historical writers are the only ones who need to research. And while, yes, historical fiction writers bear the brunt of research, since the setting of their stories is critical before they even put one word on the page, almost any kind of writer benefits from a helpful librarian, a good search engine, and free time to browse Wikipedia.

mistletow-webFor example, I’m working on a Christmas romance novella that takes place in the Mt. Hood area of Oregon. I wanted a specific landmark to be covered in mistletoe, but then I had to stop and think: Does mistletoe grow in Oregon? (Yes, it will grow pretty much anywhere.)  There is a snowstorm brewing that strands a few characters in my fictional town for several days. I had to do a quick search of typical winter weather in that area, because the last thing I need is for the whole thing that sets the story in motion to not be possible because Oregon only gets an average of two feet of snow a year (it doesn’t, by the way). Even the livelihood of one of the characters has to be researched: I want the hero to be an Iditarod competitor who trains dogs and takes tourists on dog sled excursions during the off-season. But wait– is that even a thing outside of Alaska? Thanks to Google, I now know that it does, and that I need to convince my husband that we need to take another trip to Oregon in winter so we can take a dog sled ride (all in the name of research, of course!).

violin-webAnd don’t get me started on my symphony murder mystery! A lot of the research in that story has taken the last four years, because it’s literally the job I do of a living every day. I’ve learned so much about my field, and I can channel that into my story. However, the only things I know about murder are what I’ve read in other murder mysteries and seen on TV, so that part of the story definitely requires some research. (You all will vouch for me if the FBI confiscates my computer for disturbing web searches, right?)

So, the next time you fall down a rabbit hole in the name of research, just tell yourself: it will make your story better in the long run.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I am thankful for all of our bloggers and readers here at Inspirational Messages!



What should I read next? Spring Edition

With spring comes tulips, lilacs, apple blossoms–and books!

Of course the Inkspers want to celebrate this garden of book so that you, our dear reader friends, can pick your own bouquet of bloomin’ good reads. Join us every day in the next week and get ready to fill your “to be read” pile.

Everything’s Coming Up Novellas

Perhaps it’s because I just finished writing a novella for an upcoming collection (details to follow later), but I couldn’t help notice a number of favorite authors who have novellas coming out this spring. Some dovetail on an author’s popular series, like a mini sequel, while others introduce a new series.

Novella collections, too, have taken off in the publishing world in the last few years. This is a perfect pick for the spring when your reading time might be shorter than in the long winter months.

Here are a few novellas to consider adding to your list.

the husband manuever

If you read my friend Karen Witemeyer’s book, A Worthy Pursuit, you won’t want to miss this little jewel.

1890s Texas. Marietta Hawkins has been in love with ranch foreman Daniel Barrett since she came home from school three years ago. Unfortunately, her father’s rule about hands not fraternizing with his daughter has kept him out of reach. She believed patience would prove a virtue in winning him over–until now. He is leaving. Starting up his own spread. To have any hope of maneuvering him into a proposal, she has to act fast or lose him forever.

Available for pre-order here.

Runaway Bride

I am never disappointed by anything Mary Connealy writes and this bloomin’ good read is a great addition to Mary’s Kincaid Brides and Trouble in Texas series.

Big John Conroy is a Texas Ranger asked by a friend to assist Carrie. He catches up to Carrie and her brother Isaac and races away from a dangerous man who will stop at nothing to make the beautiful young woman his wife. Soon Big John’s feelings for Carrie turn to more than simply protective, and Carrie finally feels that she’s in the presence of a man she can respect–something she’s never known.

Available for pre-order here.

Cowboy Brides

Cowboys anyone? Who can resist a man in chaps? This novella collection of nine historical romances promises a lot of action and love.

Ride onto the open range alongside cowboys and cowgirls who embrace the adventures of living in the Old West from Kansas to New Mexico, Colorado to Texas. Whether rounding up cattle or mustangs, training horses, fending off outlaws, weathering storms, competing in rodeos, or surviving drought these cowboys work hard each day. But when hardheaded men have their weaknesses exposed by well-meaning women will they stampede away or will a lasting love develop?

Available in paperback with flaps, Kindle, and Nook.

Small town brides

In case the print is too small at the top of the cover, it reads, “9 Romances Develop Under the Watchful Eyes of Neighbors.” Is your mind already spinning over the possibilities?

Join the fun and feel the romance in various historical communities from Massachusetts to Florida, Missouri to Texas. Meet ladies who take firm stands for their work in mills, orphanages, churches, schools, hospitals, and the like as they dance through courtship with their beaus. Can the nine couples develop lasting loves under the watchful eyes of their neighbors?

This book releases May  1, 2016. You can pre-order it here.

I hope I’ve planted some spring reading seeds and that you’ll be holding your bloomin’ good reads in your hands in no time.

So, what do you think of novellas? Why do you think their popularity is gaining? Have you ready any collections lately that you’d recommend?